Q: I'm a first-grade teacher, and many of my kids are overweight. Their families don't seem to understand the problems this causes, from poor school performance to chronic illness. How can I help these kids?
MAGGIE C., DALLAS
A: Even though the obesity rate for kids ages 2-5 has dropped from 14 percent to 8 percent, too many youngsters are still overweight.
Fifty percent of parents don't realize when their kids are overweight or obese. This oblivion may be caused by the parents' own weight problems (if one parent is obese, there's a 50-50 chance the kids will be obese; both parents ups the chances to 80 percent). Or it may be because they think their child's weight problem is a passing phase. It's not! Sixty-three percent of obese school-age kids become obese adults. Some parents may even worry that addressing weight issues will trigger bulimia or anorexia nervosa, but advocating physical activity and healthy food doesn't cause eating disorders.
So what can you do about this? At school, lobby for teaching nutrition to all grades, eliminating unhealthy foods in school lunches and vending machines, and giving kids recess and physical education classes. And get parents involved: Assign homework that gets parents and kids to walk around the neighborhood looking for specific kinds of plants, rocks or birds. Provide checklists and encourage families to take pictures of the activities for a show-and-tell exhibit.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.